If you’re still digesting that superbly filling five-star Avengers: Endgame entrée from April, loosen one more notch on your belt—Spider-Man: Far From Home is the frothy rainbow sherbet palate cleanser you may need. An overall pleasing and fun (though not without its faults) chapter in the now 32-film-strong Marvel Cinematic Universe, Far From Home picks up eight months after the melancholia of Endgame.

Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) Peter is gearing up for his high school class trip to Europe, hoping to get a little romantic time with the oblivious MJ (Zendaya), all the while trying to cope with mentor Tony Stark’s death and simultaneously avoid phone calls from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). When Peter decides to leave his Spidey suit at home for the trip, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) packs it anyway, and a good thing, too—as soon as the class arrives in Venice, a five-story Elemental water monster arrives to wreak havoc.

Before Spider-Man can jump into action, Mysterio (Jack Gyllenhaal) flies onto the scene and saves the day, earning Spidey’s admiration along with the thanks of Fury and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). Mysterio then reveals himself to be Quentin Beck, whose family was killed by the Elementals in a parallel universe and who has tracked the monsters to this universe. He tells the team that the final Elemental, a fire monster, is headed for Prague and he needs help to destroy it.

Despite trying to just enjoy his trip, Peter eventually gets sucked into the situation and then thrown right onto the front lines when Fury arranges for the class trip to be secretly diverted to Prague. From there, plot revelations constitute spoiler material, but suffice to say that twists and turns happen—some you’ll see coming from a mile away, some you won’t.

The screenplay by returning writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers keeps the humor and tongue-in-cheekiness of the Marvel Universe going at a fever pitch but falters more than a little on what is ultimately a standard superhero plot. When the awkward love story of teens Peter and MJ (not to mention the hilarity of a dozen kids being shepherded through Europe by outmatched teachers played by J.B. Smoove and Martin Starr) is more interesting that the superhero-fights-villain plot, that’s a problem. Part of the blame, however, lies squarely with (Gyllenhaal)—or, more accurately, whoever cast him. Despite being one of the finer actors working today, he simply doesn’t work in his role, and it ultimately prevents Far From Home from reaching the accustomed Marvel heights.

Director Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming) likewise starts out giving us a worthy MCU chapter, but halfway through he winds up looking like a kid with a new computer; the film relies way too heavily on over-the-top, 3D-tastic, computer-animated sequences, which ultimately distract from the movie instead of strengthening it.

No one expected Far From Home to be in the same ballpark as Endgame (or even as many of the other MCU chapters, to be honest), and though it’s not an abject failure, it’s the new standard-bearer in the Marvel world for what could have been. If only someone’s Spidey-sense had been tingling…


3/5 stars